Shilluk sandals

Shilluk sandals
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
1903.16.112 .1 .2
[Southern Sudan] Upper Nile Kodok
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
By 1903
Wood Plant , Animal Hide Skin , Wool Textile Animal
Carved , Perforated , Knotted , Plaited
[.1] L = 250, max W = 86.3, max th = 36.2, min th = 14, W hide strap = 8.1, W wool strap = 4.5, diam hole = 6 mm; [.2] L = 256, max W = 86.7, max th = 31.2, min th = 13.3, w hide strrap = 14.5, W wool strap = 5.5, diam hole = 7 mm [RTS 17/5/2005].
[.1] 248.6; [.2] 218.8 g
Field Collector:
Donald Gunn
PRM Source:
Donald Gunn
Donated 1903
Collected Date:
By 1903
A pair of sandals, very similar in shape; [.1] may be for the right foot, and [.2] for the left. These consist of a wooden sole, each carved from a single block of yellowish wood (Pantone 7509C) with a flat upper surface, and stepped underside with raised heel and toe areas and inset middle. The sole is curved at the back, with the sides narrowing and then flaring outwards towards the broader, curved front. The sole has been perforated with 2 pairs of holes, burnt through the surface, one pair just above the heel and the other just before the raised toe section. These are used to secure two straps, knotted on the underside and which cross over one another just above the front of the sandal, creating a toe loop that could be adjusted to fit one or more toes. The placement of these front holes suggest that this was not normally fitted around the big toe, but perhaps around one or more central toes instead. The straps differ in composition. On 1903.16.112.1, one strap is made from a plaited length of cream coloured European wool, now rather discoloured on its upper part, while the other is made from 2 hide strips knotted together, with a piece of soft wood wedged into the toe hole to keep the strap in place. On 1903.16.112.1, we see the same combination of materials, but in this case, the wool strap is made of 2 thick strands loosely twisted together and tied near the toe onto a hide strip, while the second strap is made from a much wider piece of skin that has been partially cut along its centre and is a reddish brown colour (Pantone 4695C); this has also been wedged with a piece of wood at the toe end.

The sandals are complete, but with some damage to the heel and toe areas of the underside. There are also traces of use-wear on the upper surface of the soles, where the wood has been given an almost glassy burnish on the heels and where shallow depressions have been worn into the surface where the toes originally rested. Their dimensions are as follows. [.1] Weight 248.6 grams, length 250 mm, maximum width (at toe) 86.3 mm, maximum thickness (at toe) 36.2 mm and thickness at instep 14 mm; width of hide strap 8.1 mm, width of woollen strap 4.5 mm, diameter of holes 6 mm; [.2] weight 218.8 grams, length 256 mm, maximum width (at toe) 86.7 mm, maximum thickness (at toe) 31.2 mm and thickness at instep 13.3 mm; width of hide strap 14.5 mm, width of woollen strap 5.5 mm, and diameter of holes 7 mm.

Collected by Donald Gunn at Kodok (formerly called Fashoda) in the Southern Sudan and presented to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1903. Gunn appears to have collected other Shilluk material from the ‘White Nile’, ‘Upper Nile’, and Bor.

Wooden sandals of somewhat similar design were also worn by the Acholi; see R. Boccassino, 1964, "Contributo allo studio dell’ ergologia delle popolazioni Nilotiche e Nilo-camitche. Parte quarta. Il vestito, il tatuaggio, le deformazioni del corpo, gli ornamenti e la circoncisione",
Annali Lateranensi XXVIII, fig. 16. Domville Fife mentions that the Shilluk occasionally wore sandals, although he states that these were of hippopotamus hide (see C.W. Domville Fife, 1927, Savage Life in the Black Sudan, p. 82).

Rachael Sparks 18/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [III, p. 110] - 1903 [pencil insert] 16 [end insert] DR D. GUNN Esq., M.B. 40 Dover Street, London, W. June. [...] [p. 113] - The following from the Shilluk tribe, Upper Nile. viz: [pencil insert] 112 [end insert] - pair of wooden clog-sandals.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 23/7/2004].

Detailed Footwear Card Catalogue entry - Group: Footgear Division: Sandal Clogs Class: Wood Description: Solid wooden sandals with instep cut out underneath leaving rounded toe and heel. The wood is perforated in the toe 7 cm from the edge with 2 holes close together and 2 more further apart just before the heel. A leather thong and a wooden plait are threaded through the holes so as to cross and knotted under the sole the leather thong passes through the right top and left bottom hole Length 25 cm People: Shilluk Locality: Fashoda How Acquired: Pres by Dr D Gunn 1903 [Drawing]

Pitt Rivers Museum label - Africa, Sudan, Fashoda (= Kodok). SHILLUK. Coll. by Donald Gunn, donated 1903. 1903.16.112.1-.2 [plastic coated label, tied to 1903.16.112.1; RTS 14/4/2005].

Written on object - SHILLUK, FASHODA. Pres. by Dr. D. Gunn, 1903 [.1 and .2; RTS 14/4/2005].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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